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DBB at Freep: Brandon Jennings still key to Pistons' success

Brandon Jennings might be gone, but he certainly shouldn't be forgotten. It's hard to imagine the Pistons reaching anywhere close to their season expectations without a serious contribution from Jennings.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Bad Boys is back at the Detroit Free Press talking about the Pistons. This week's piece covers the importance of Brandon Jennings to the Pistons' hopes for success this season.

I must say, I wrote the piece thinking I was bullish on how Jennings could contribute this season, even as many fans think it's simply a matter of time before he gets dealt. But after finishing the piece, I'm a little worried about Detroit's point guard play. If a team is able to neutralize Reggie Jackson then I worry about how Detroit is going to get all those crack shooters the open looks they need.

Read on!

It might seem strange to pin so much on a player who many believe is almost an afterthought. After all, Jennings is still recovering from an Achilles injury suffered in January. He's also lost his role, as Detroit quickly traded for Reggie Jackson, called him the point guard of the future and backed up those words by handing him the richest contract in franchise history - five years and $80 million.

But Jennings is a key component this year, because without his playmaking and ball handling, Detroit's offense could self-destruct.

The Pistons are all set at starter, as Jackson has shown he is an electric point guard. Not only did he average 17.6 points and 9.2 assists per game while in Detroit, he also assisted on more than half of Detroit's field goals while on the floor. That would have ranked first in the NBA if carried out for an entire season.

Jackson's teammates, however, leave a lot to be desired in the playmaking department. Andre Drummond is a great finisher, but a disaster when putting the ball on the floor. And the complementary players around Jackson and Drummond can certainly hit open shots, but they struggle to create for themselves or others.

The NBA tracks every kind of shot a player takes, and the Pistons' secondary players rely heavily on catch-and-shoot opportunities. A catch-and-shoot try is classified as a shot beyond 10 feet with the ball in a player's hands for fewer than two seconds.

Ersan Ilyasova, Jodie Meeks, Marcus Morris and Anthony Tolliver all had greater than 48 percent of their field goals of the catch-and-shoot variety. Even more alarming, however, is that if you look at the team's assist numbers, the top returning non-point guard is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who tallied a paltry 1.3 assists per game last season. Newcomers Morris and Ilyasova averaged 1.6 and 1.0 assists, respectively.